Released: 2013, Do or Die Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Part occult rock, part classic metal, part traditional doom, Chicago’s Relentless aims to hit all of those sweet spots on their debut SOULS OF CHARON. It’s a mixed bag of tunes that comes close to achieving that goal in spirit, but doesn’t quite hit the mark in execution.
The first half of the album sounds pretty inspired. Opening track “Trapped Underground” has that woefully slow n’ crunchy early Vitus feel to it, and it also introduces us to vocalist Carlee Jackson. She’s got a gentle and breezy vocal approach that’s both a blessing and a curse (more on that later), but it’s a strong track. “Better Off Dead” is an up-tempo, traditional metal fist pumper that pleasantly summons the spirit of KILLERS for inspiration, while “United by Darkness” has a dirty, dive bar swagger to it. So far, so good…But the second half of the album comes across a bit tired. “Final Wishes” and “Forever Damned” rehash some staid doom riffs and don’t really go anywhere and take too long to do it. And the closing title track tries to recover some of the album’s early momentum with some pomp and grandiosity, but it’s like William Hung from American Idol; it bangs, it tries its best, but it still doesn’t make the cut.
Back to the vocals... Jackson’s approach isn’t conceptually much different than Alia O’Brien’s (Blood Ceremony) or Ms. Thoth herself; but she sounds so relaxed in her delivery she sounds almost disinterested at times. Some of this is a result of a ton of reverb saturating her vocals in unnecessary echo, but regardless, it’s a definite buzzkill to hear the band trying to light a fire and the singer sounds like she’s just going through the motions. I’m crossing my fingers that Relentless comes across better live or that the next record has some additional studio time and budget, because at their core they’re on the right track. Going back to my earlier statement – the band’s got the right idea, and when it works it’s pretty good.
When it’s all said and done, SOULS OF CHARON isn’t a perfect album and it’s not a terrible one either. If you think that metal peaked in ’84 or if you’re just into the classic stuff and a bit curious, check out Relentless and album samples on their Bandcamp page.